In 2005, the richest 300,000 Americans had almost as much income as the bottom 150 million.
Since 1980, the income pie (the total amount of income) has grown 74%, with population increasing only by a third during the same period.
In 2005, the bottom 90% of tax payers had about 1/2 (51.5%) of the income pie, down from 2/3 in 1980 (65.3%). The income share of this "vast majority" of tax payers has not been this low since 1928, when it was 51.7%.
From 1980 to 2005, the income share for the top 10% of tax payers grew from 1/3 (34.6%) to 1/2 (48.5%). For the bottom half of that top 10%, their income slice was unchanged (11.5% to 11.4%) but the top half - the 95th to 99th percentiles - grew from 13.2 to 15.3
The income share for the top 1% of tax payers increased from 10% to 21.8%.
To give some idea of the disparity within this percentile: The threshold to make it into the top 1% of taxpayers in 2005 was $348,400. At the very top, several persons earned a billion dollars. It would take 3,000 years to get from the threshold to the top.
For the top tenth of that 1%, the income share increased from 3.4% to 10.9%. For the top hundredth, 1.3% to 5.1%.
This income concentration is virtually identical to the numbers for 1928-29.
Since 1980, the economy has effectively increased by 2/3 yet income for the bottom 90% dropped from $29,495 to $29,143. But if you go back to 1973 the picture is even worse: that 90% earned $33,001 in '73. Despite 3 decades of growth the vast majority of Americans are earning less.
For the bottom half of income earners, income dropped from $15,464 (1980) to $14,149 (2004).
From 1975 to 2005 average annual income:
For the bottom 90% of taxpayers (270 million people in '05) - income decreased from $29,968 to $29,143; a 3% decrease.
For the top 1% (3 million people in '05) - income increased from $359,501 to $1,111,560; a 209% increase.
For the top 0.01% (30,000 people in '05) - income increased from $3,430,164 to $25,726,965; a 650% increase.
Adjusted for inflation, the threshold increase from 1980 to 2005 for:
the 90th rung - $84,080 to $100,714
the 99th rung - a 71% increase
the 99.9th rung - $1 million to $1.7 million
the 99.99th rung - $2.5 million to $9.5 million
The average income for the 99.99th rung of the income tax ladder increased from $5.2 million to $25.7 million.
Comparing ratio of income growth between eras
"for each additional dollar going to each person in the vast majority [the bottom 90%], how many went to each of those in the top 1%?"
90% vs. 1%
1950 to 1975 - $4:1
1960 to 1985 - $17:1
1981 to 2005 - $5,000:1
90% vs .01%
1950 to 1975 - $36:1
1960 to 1985 - $459:1
1981 to 2005 - $141,000:1
And for the top 400 richest Americans (quoted from here):
Under the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes - a minimum of $87 million in 2000, the last year for which the government will release such data - now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to virtually the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000.
and "... because of the Bush tax cuts, those earning more than $10 million a year pay a smaller share of their money in income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes than those making between $100,000 to $200,000."
Johnston also points out that these 400 richest taxpayers received a larger effective tax cut under Clinton (8%) than Bush (5%).
For more on the book and its subject matter:
Johnston at Bill Moyers Journal
Johnston at Fora tv
Johnston interview with Reason
How the Rich Get Richer at NPR
Johnston at Democracy Now
[Blogger's Note] - Edited 7-29-08: I had erroneously confused the richest 400 with those making over $10 million a year.